Category Archives: Music

LONDON POSSE & FREDDY

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This one is pretty rare. Given the recent hoo-ha regarding American social media reactions to Giggs’ duo of More Life appearances (our music being slandered by Americans would have stung a decade ago, but now? Less so.) and the frequently naive history lessons offered as a response from these shores, it’s worth rewinding to London Posse’s Yo! MTV Raps international edition appearance from 1993. It certainly wasn’t the first Brit-America rap crossover moment by any stretch, but I remember being impressed by this second-half section of an episode being dedicated to this nation’s capital, where a baffled Fred attempted to interview Black Radical and General Levy talked about our scene, before we had to watch a scattering of videos by Marxman, Urban Species and Honky instead of the American videos that the US audience was getting to see on their broadcast. Personally, I think that — with plenty of honourable mentions, mostly singles rather than albums — between Rodney and Bionic’s opus Gangster Chronicle (this interview was from around the time How’s Life in London? was reissued, remixed and sponsored by British Knight) and the rise of road rap, UK rap was a patchy, patchy thing. It took another 14 years or so for it to seem like it could be a actual career. Go to this blog right here and watch this encounter, filmed in Piccadilly Circus just after an IRA bomb scare for extra historical context — Rodney P espousing the importance of following the indie route and Bionic echoing the importance of that outside-the-industry approach preempts the recent business model that took Stormzy to the top by a long, long time. Back then, it seemed like a pipe dream. Now it’s the road to going gold.

SIGUE SIGUE FUTURA

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To some, Sigue Sigue Sputnik were one of those press-inflated flops of the 1980s, billed as the new thing — a glam sci-fi band with a loose dystopian dress code and apocalyptic Droog-like art direction, but incapable of maintaining the momentum of their Giorgio Moroder produced breakthrough. I think they were one of the great acts of that moment — a post Generation X creation who made a record that defines its era and maintained a mystique that had me fascinated. The sense of swindle and piss-taking that pervaded their work had some serious marketing dollars behind it. That promo extended to a 1986 MTV takeover called Sputnik Network Television that user result has upped onto YouTube. Presented by Tony James, who introduces Peter Gabriel videos, interviews shadowy record execs and Jennifer Gray, quizzes a spaniel and takes phone calls a young Futura 2000 is art guest, painting throughout in bike courier attire. Lenny gets a lot of screen time, mentioning his Fila boycott, but citing the brand as, “Sort of a street Gucci of 1986,” and expressing embarrassment at his Clash-produced solo single. A fantastic time capsule of its era that — as Lenny’s mention of his t-shirt line indicates — sows the seeds for plenty of interesting things that followed.

MORE ENERGY

As discussed here multiple times, between 1990 and 1993 — and with a floating broadcast time of between 6:25 and 9:30pm from series to series — DEF II’s Dance Energy show was extremely influential to me as a town-bound kid. It provided street style sections in cities far away as well as profiles on city capitals overseas, a well-lit look at that week’s trends on the crowd of dancers in the studio sections plus some great and terrible live PAs. Naturally, we took the ability to get a quick overview of the new and next things while sitting in front of the TV eating golden drummers and oven chips for granted until “yoof” TV in such a prominent place seemed to dry up. Superb UK rave and clubland archive resource Webm8 just upped several episodes and complications on YouTube. Hiroshi Fujiwara talking Tokyo hotspots circa 1992, a brief Major Force profile, lots of UK coverage, those legendary bootleg-looking Timberland leather jackets and Joey Starr and friends rapping Paris are just part of the rare footage on display here. Continue reading MORE ENERGY

CHAT

After years of haplessly attempting to write and watch TV shows and films at the same time, the ascent of the podcast has been a godsend. A wealth of deep conversations on niche topics scattered with anecdotal diamonds and some necessary myth busting is the soundtrack to most of my afternoons and it’s notable that the sprawling length of some favourites like Drink Champs fires warning shots in the direction of those who demand that information be kept to pithy lengths. Those attention span deniers are a regressive bunch. Give me hours of meandering chats over condensed blocks of information any day. Mark Anthony Green and the New Yorker’s Matthew Trammell entered the arena recently with Rich Friend: the Elevated Conversation and the interesting choice of guests thus far has made it one of my favourites. The most recent episode with DJ Clark Kent is a break from the regular shoe-centric direction he’s taken in to showcase how smart he is — never a passive conversationalist, Clark has an interesting opinion on the state of rap and the state of the world right now, plus an insane level of history in the hip-hop industry harking back to when it was just a scattering of New York jams. Good guy, good hosts, good podcast.

STYLE WARS THE MUSICAL

It’s almost a never forgive action that I had no idea that ESPO and REAS’s one-minute Style Wars the Musical short (which, for a moment a while back, I thought was actually a trailer for a full off-Broadway musical) was online via its production company, ApK. This video (on a slightly faraway screen in the Street Market 2 recreation) was one of the highlights of a trip to the Art in the Streets show at MoCa LA back in 2011 — now I want to see a full version of Skeme and his mum’s big number. There have been a lot of magnificent tributes to this iconic documentary throughout the years, but this is one of the very best.

RAM JAM

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It looks like we’re getting a memoir by no less a legend than ‘Ram Jam’ Rodigan via Constable this March. David Rodigan MBE is a national treasure and, from a very brief interaction with him, a very decent chap (though his contract stipulated that he couldn’t be billed as “the Gentleman Rudeboy”. Somehow managing to keep it very real but also create wild onstage personas for clashes, how exactly he rose to international fame and find favour with a Jamaican audience who have zero chill if you don’t come correct is a story I’m keen to read when My Life in Reggae releases. That he had cameos in Doctor Who (and another scene boying off Sherlock Holmes) around the same time that he was hiding his craft with Kingston’s finest just adds to the mythos. Whether he’s entering the stage dressed as Elvis to unleash a Junior Reid Crank That dubplate, rocking a turban or having a Test Match theme skit lead into a Rodigan special take on Merciless’ Ole Gallis in NYC, that taste for the theatrical adds a manic extra dimension to his work. Long may he reign.

1996

The internet just keeps spitting out gems. Kyle Lilly upped another chunk of NYC public access show Video Explosion’s coverage of a 1996 Vibe Magazine and Def Jam party. With DJ Finesse chatting with Mic Geronimo, Charles Oakley and the mighty DJ Red Alert (wearing this incredible Odd Squad promo t-shirt for a night out), plus (a grainy) umlaut-era Jaÿ-Z with Mary and Foxy live on stage (where did I leave my Nutty Professor cassette?), it captures a transitional point for hip-hop. Half a year later, Jay would command a very different status in the city.